When a patient is admitted to a hospital, they can experience a wide range of emotions including anxiety and confusion.
Sure, they want to get better, and they want to get back to their normal life, but oftentimes what they want and need most is clear communication from their doctors and nurses.
Brian Patrick, vice president of nursing for Good Shepherd Health Care System, said the hospital made what he calls a Commitment to Communication two years ago. That effort has paid off with Good Shepherd being named one of the top 350 hospitals nationwide for nursing communication and one of only six in the state of Oregon. The top hospitals were listed in Becker’s Hospital Review, a medical industry trade magazine.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) used data compiled by Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS).
CMS shares 10 HCAHPS star ratings based on publicly reported measures. The nurse communication star rating combines data from survey questions and summarizes how well patients feel that their nurses explained things clearly, listened carefully to the them, and treated them with courtesy and respect. The star rating is based on survey data collected from hospital patients in the calendar year 2022.
“I am very proud of the team,” Patrick said of the 256 nurses at Good Shepherd. “I am also very proud that we have been able to improve our services for our patients. That’s what it’s all about.”
Jenny Sullivan, senior patient relations coordinator for Good Shepherd, said the data collected by CMS was based, in part, on three questions asked of patients during the calendar year.
- During this hospital stay, how often did nurses treat you with courtesy and respect?
- During this hospital stay, how often did nurses listen carefully to you?
- During this hospital stay, how often did nurses explain things in a way you understand?
Data is also collected from surveys of discharged patients about their recent hospital stay.
Sullivan, who is a certified patient experience professional, said Good Shepherd proactively and voluntarily provides CMS with patient experience data.
Sara Camden, Nurse Manager of Acute Care Services, said the key to good communication with patients is to “keep it human.”
Both Camden and Patrick said it is important to sit down – not stand up – when talking to patients.
“This is someone’s family,” Camden said, adding that nurses need to see things from the patient’s perspective.
“The biggest thing to understand is that this may look like a simple disease process that you know is going to be better in a couple days, but to the other person, it’s the worst day of their life,” Camden said.
She said it takes a conscious effort to communicate effectively with patients.
“You have to ask, ‘What do these people need from me?’ ‘What do you not understand about your medication or your disease process?’ You have to show compassion.”
Feedback from Good Shepherd patients highlights the results of the hospital’s Commitment to Communication that Patrick talked about. Some examples:
“As a Crohn’s patient I have been to many hospitals. This Good Shepherd is by far the most careful & considerate place I’ve ever been. People and atmosphere were top quality.”
“My nurse encouraged me and made me even feel like she loved me.”
“I was quietly singing when my nurse checked on me. She joined in the song.”
“My overall experience at GSHC was EXCELLENT. All of my nurses, CNA and doctor were very knowledgeable & very polite when helping me to understand my condition & what caused it.”
“Excellent work from all the nurses, thank you for supporting my wife with the arrival of my beloved daughter.”
“I was extremely pleased with the wonderful nurses & doctors that I had. I felt that I was in good hands. The housekeeping staff was respectful & did a great job keeping my room clean, & kitchen staff was also very kind & respectful.”
Patrick said the nursing staff meets daily to go over what has been working well, as well as producing ideas as to what can be done better.
“This approach breeds innovation,” he said.
Camden said the nursing department uses a different focus word each month to improve patient care and communication.
“Last month the word was Integrity,” she said. “What does that mean to you as a nurse? What does that mean to you as CNA (certified nursing assistant)? So, our focus word drives our care. For the month of December, it’s going to be Excellence. When someone says you’re an excellent nurse, does that mean you’re perfect? Absolutely not. But I expect them to give their all because mediocrity is not acceptable. That’s someone’s family.”
Camden said nurses have “a million and one things to do each day,” but nursing is much more than completing tasks.
“It’s sitting at a patient’s bedside,” she said. “Or if it’s their anniversary, you set up a little table for them with candles. It’s remembering their birthday. Those things matter. When patients see staff working together and communicating with one another, they feel like they’re in a safe place to be.”
When asked if he was surprised by Good Shepherd’s nurses being honored for their communications with patients, Patrick said no.
“This is exactly what we expected and exactly what we have worked toward,” Patrick said. “And, as we move forward, we expect even more for our patients.”